Monday, March 11, 2013

Why My Husband Makes Me Uncomfortable

Don't Get Comfortable
“The more comfortable you get with where you are, the harder it is to change.”

Those were my husband’s words last Saturday morning as we sat, 30 feet up, on a ski lift, my third week ever as a skier, his third week as my ski coach.

“Why do I have to change now?” I asked, deflated.  See, I thought I was in the clear. Over the past two weeks, I had graduated from the bunny hill; I had paid my dues in fits, starts, and falls; I was finally starting to swoosh down the hill with some degree of confidence and control. I figured lesson time was over.   

But, he wouldn’t let up: “Point your knee out, little toe edge, keep your torso facing downhill,” he drilled, having me hold my poles out, framing the tree at the bottom of the hill. Torso straight, little toe edge, knee out.

As I added three more details to my brain, the skills I had previously mastered took the backseat and mother nature humbled me, tumbling my body into a white pile of soggy humiliation.

Newbie me, surrounded by my husband and son, ski experts

"Can’t I just stay as good I am?” I asked, now repositioning myself on the ski lift. Impatience and frustration were taking hold as I witnessed what seemed to be the systematic dismantling of my previous progress. My left turns were eroding, my balance was a half-foot behind me. “Why am I changing this now? It’s making me worse,” I lamented.

“Because you can,“ he said knowingly, as we ogled the powder-sugared trees. “The more comfortable you get with where you are, the harder it is to change.” I knew that voice. Sixteen years of marriage makes one an expert at the various voices. This one was the patient, knowing and wise one. As much as I didn’t want to hear it, as much as my body was resisting it, I found myself having the bizarre realization that it not only applied to me, but also to a colleague of mine.  

And so, I shall now transition from the ski hill to my place of work and visit an issue that has been causing me anxiety and sleeplessness. I shall place said colleague squarely on the metaphorical ski hill and let my husband evaluate her.
“Why do we have to change now?” my colleague asks, dangling her metaphorical skis from the metaphorical chairlift. She has a plethora of protests. We’re interchangeable, she and I: it could be either one of us raising the following objections, she of education, me of skiing. My husband replies to us both:

Us: I can already do this well my way.
Hubby: You’ll never ski anything but glorified bunny hills this way. I don’t want you to get comfortable with mediocrity.

Us: I’d rather feel steady and safe than off balance and out of control:  
Hubby: You don’t know what you don’t know. What feels good and comfortable now will severely limit what you can do later.

Us: I’m happy where I am; Isn’t this good enough?
Hubby: Do you want to be Alpine Valley blue hill good, or real-world good? Do you want to be able to ski any condition that comes your way or limit yourself to this, right here?

Us: This is really hard!
Hubby: Everything’s hard in the beginning. Everything worth anything, is. But if you want to be better, you’ve got to work through the difficulty.

Us: People will laugh at me
Hubby: Actually, they won’t. They don’t. We all fall; that’s how we grow. If you don’t fall down once in awhile, you’re not pushing your limits. 

Today's Treacherous Educational Terrain
Tragically, when we disrobe the metaphorical layer, take the skis off the hill and enter the arena of public education, my colleague is not just a single skier stuck in her rudimentary ways. If she’s a teacher, she’s also dulling the competitive edge of her students and her colleagues. And if she’s in an administrator, the impact of her impasse multiplies, crippling other administrators, the teachers she leads, and in turn, their students. She’s an obstructionist.   

The terrain is changing dramatically in education, becoming increasingly treacherous, and insistence on using old techniques and old equipment is self-defeating, irrational, and dangerous. 

As far as my ski career goes, I plan to fall, to curse, and to grow. And I hope someday to be swooshing down Colorado’s black diamonds, torso straight, little toe edge, shoulders forward, knee out.

To those stuck in beginner mode, I echo my husband’s sage advice: Don’t get comfortable---on the ski slopes, or in the classroom.